Medical Apps – General Principles and Some Recommendations

Do you wonder if you are most effectively using the technology you carry in your pocket? Is your phone cluttered with medical apps that you downloaded and now you can’t even remember what they are supposed to do? Here is a guide to walk you through my approach. Caveats – this is based primarily on my own experience, and I use an iPhone not Android, so my Android info is limited. Medical apps seem to disappear from the app store with remarkable frequency, so please check availability.

Apps vary from proprietary apps that integrate with your EHR of choice, to general apps that are useful irrespective of your EHR. Utility of many of these apps will depend on your personal workflow. For example, I use the free Osirix Lite application on my Macintosh computer to read Dicom images. I do not see spending $49.99 plus in-app purchases to use the IOS version – so far life has gone well in spite of not being able to read Dicom images emailed to my phone. For that matter, there are free iPhone Dicom viewers to play with if you have access to a Dicom server.

If you are like me, you download special function apps and then realize you simply never use them. I have to periodically clean house by deleting apps I never use. Some websites formatted for mobile use can be used as apps by putting them on your home screen – e.g. Nursing Home Compare and the Frax tool . I use some of these more than actual apps, and of course they take almost no storage, the downside is you need internet access.

If you take care of patients that can use their own smartphones, there is a cornucopia of blood sugar tracking apps, compliance aids, pharmacy apps, communication with PCP apps, etc. As I deal with a nursing home eligible population, these aren’t useful to my practice. 

General apps are often very useful for medical reasons – Evernote for notes and clipped web pages, calculators, and the ever popular Google. I use Cheatsheet app on my phone and watch to keep track of those pesky codes needed to enter and exit various sites without triggering alarms.

On IOS for Apple products, check out the ResearchKit Apps available – some of the most interesting data collection apps are part of ongoing research studies. I periodically check the ResearchKit web site to see what is new.

Here are the true medical apps I use most often:




My go to general reference app, it requires annual subscription and offers CME. Alternatives include DynaMed Plus


General reference, can search drug prices by location. Free.


Useful for finding colleagues and sending and receiving faxes. Free.


Drug and interaction reference

IBM Micromedex 

Drug and interaction reference, may be available free through your university ties.

Merck Pro

The Merck manual for professionals – general reference. Free. 


There are many medical calculator apps. This is my go-to app and it is updated periodically

Med Board CA

Great resource to periodically check to see if your license has been taken away

ACP Guidelines

All of the ACP’s current and past guidelines


The Compendium

WHO guidelines for diagnosing and treating TB, updated June 2018

Genworth Cost of Care

Fabulous resource of up-to-date cost information for localities on cost of nursing home, assisted living, home and adult day care.

Visible Body 

Human Anatomy Atlas

Useful both to review anatomy and illustrate for patients. $24.99 but sometimes on sale. Oh, I wish this was available when I took anatomy in medical school


American College of Cardiology (ACC) guidelines for heart failure

Readcube Papers

This is the reference app that I use to access pdfs and Medline searches, synching with my computers. They bought the app I previously used, called Papers, and replaced it with a subscription model – so far I am impressed.


American College of Cardiology (ACC) app that calculates Cha2DS2-Vasc scores, reviews therapy options. Last updated May 2017. For non-valvular a-fib.

Antidote App

American College of Emergency Physicians – excellent reference for poisonings. Oh, this would have been useful for the enemies of the Medici in the 1400s. 

ADA Standards of Care

2018 revisions of American Diabetes Association standards for diagnosing and treating diabetes, includes interactive algorithms and assessment tools.

Free, and with iPad and Android versions as well. 

Pocket Casts

Gazillions of podcast apps, but this is one of my favorite to listen to podcasts such as ReachMD’s Focus on Geriatric Medicine and Aging. I also have favorite podcasts that are so boring that they are the most effective non-pharmacologic sleeping aid I have seen.

MMWR Express

Free app to read the CDC’s full reports and summaries from the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report


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